A good chilli is always warming and comforting, with or without beans, made with minced or chunky meat, beef or alligator (sic!). This time, pork mince and red kidney beans. Gorgeous!
Can you make chilli with pork mince?
This dish came about the usual way: I was really craving chilli but all there was in the freezer, meat-wise, was a lump of minced pork.
As it turns out, you can make chilli out of pretty much anything. I used to believe minced beef was an essential ingredient, as well as beans.
Lo and behold, I have since learned that not only can chilli be made without beans but some people consider adding them to a chilli sacrilegious. Texas chilli, the classic, is made from chunks of meat sans beans which in my books is a stew but I guess it isn’t if you add enough hot peppers to it.
I do a quick search through New York Times cooking section though I have to mind the spelling: Americans tend to skip one ‘l’ in their chillies and sometimes randomly end the word with an ‘e’ instead of an ‘i’: 'chile', like the country.
There’s a myriad of chillies: white chicken, turkey, beef and chocolate, lamb, Chinese (hope it refers to the flavour), bean and sweet potato, butternut squash, mushroom, aubergine and alligator. Honest truth: a chilli made with alligator meat. Florida Keys speciality?
I’m guessing ‘chilli’ is a generic label, pretty much like ‘soup’.
How to make chilli?
I’m not a Texan but a dilletante, so please don’t judge me if you think you know so, so much better. But I hope nobody will question my conviction that a good chilli is made with good protein, sufficient heat and a long time in the pot.
Whatever the kind of meat you’re using, minced or chunked, turkey or alligator, it needs to be browned thoroughly, in batches if necessary. If it’s a meatless dish, it will start with sweating the main vegetable ingredient.
Apparently the best chilli peppers to use are a combination of fresh, dried and powder or paste. But we are quite severely limited in what chillies we can buy in the UK: jalapeños or no-name mixed prevail in supermarkets. So I source good dried hot peppers for my chilli purposes online, and in the recipe below there is a large mild ancho with a small hotter chipotle.
Next there’s the liquid: beer, stock, tomatoes or water and time on the hob: arguably the most essential factor.
Dried or tinned beans?
I think you’ll find there isn’t much difference in taste, whether you use tinned and drained beans or soak and cook them from dried.
The difference will be marked in dishes centred on beans, like baked beans or beans and ham hock. In a chilli, beans are a volumizing ingredient and the hot peppers dominate the flavour.
I’m including the instructions how to cook dried beans but feel free to use tins.
Dried beans should be soaked overnight in plenty of cold water, then drained and covered with fresh water for cooking, no salt added or they might get tough.
They should be brought to a boil and cooked briskly over medium heat for ten minutes, then about fifty minutes to an hour at a very low simmer, covered with a lid. You can leave them in the cooking liquid if you want to do that task in advance. Otherwise drain them and use when ready to add to the chilli.
Tinned beans, organic recommended, should be drained and rinsed with plenty of water before adding to the pot.
Pork and raisins
The inspiration for the recipe came, as mentioned, from my cupboard and freezer but the suggestion to use raisins in the dish is from Serious Eats. It’s a great idea: pork and dried fruit is a famously good combo and it works in a chilli just as well.
So the order of events for cooking is as follows: first brown the minced pork thoroughly, making sure no bits are pink any longer, then add onions and garlic, to sweat and soften with the meat.
Spices and chillies go in next, followed by all the liquids: stock with soaked raisins, tomatoes with their juices. The chilli will now simmer at a low heat for an hour, with the lid on the pot a little ajar.
The beans will join the chilli next and cook together for any time from forty minutes to an hour, or longer.
Seasoning and adding chopped coriander is the last step, when the chilli is tender, the flavours have fused together and the sauce is thick and ketchupy.
More chilli recipes
Easy slow cooked chilli con carne with minced beef, cannellini and kidney beans, ancho chillies and a pinch of cocoa powder. Happiness is a warm tortilla!
Simple and basic vegetarian chilli recipe. It’s worth soaking and cooking beans for the best chilli but tins make an easy recipe. This vegetarian chilli is garnished with pickled red onions - a must for a Mexican flavour.
Chilli con corn, vegetarian sweetcorn chilli with beans goes well with tortillas, baked potatoes or nachos. Corn on the cob cooked with classic chilli flavours – the fresher ears of corn, the better!
More bean recipes
Baked beans with bacon are called b-b-beans in my house. Dried beans soaked overnight, slab bacon, molasses and mustard, five hours cooking – beat that, Mr Heinz!
The best cassoulet with pork and fresh duck legs. Traditional French cassoulet is a hearty and warming one pot dish, cooked with dried haricot beans, in low oven or in a slow cooker. Swap duck for chicken legs if you like.
Baked sweet potato halves loaded with spicy black beans and Cheddar cheese: vegetarian lunch, snack or dinner, blissfully comforting.